Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Tetris Effect

Gee....What crap can i make up, today?

Sometimes it's best to never check the internet before you leave for work.  Usually, when you do, you tend to see commentary that's so insipidly brain dead, that you have to double check the tweet
to make sure that it's actually being said by a human being. Let's take a look at these tweets that surfaced Saturday night.

By the way, this is Ben Kuchera. Yes, that Ben Kuchera. Polygon's resident writer and Senior Opinion editor. If you're wondering, yes that sounds like a fancy way of saying blogger. During one of Jonathan Mcintosh's famously inane tirades, Ben throws out this little gem about Tetris, and proceeds to make it into Soviet propaganda. Before we start on that, let's have a little history lesson about our friend Mr. Kuchera. The following information can be found via a cursory Google search and an interesting blog called a section called "The big book of controversies".

On January 27, 2013 Erik Kain, a contributing journalist at, ran an article detailing the recent release of a once-vaporwared Super Nintendo cartridge game known as Nightmare Busters. The title, resurrected by retro-publishing developer Super Fight Team, came complete with a working SNES game cartridge, full color instruction manual, cardstock box print in full color, and a retail value of $60.

The process of emulation programs, in essence, is an attempt to preserve extremely old, or obsolete, video game programs by recreating the original into a digital program capable of being played on current PC (and even some console) hardware. The process of emulation can be time-consuming and sometimes extremely difficult to achieve, but when done properly (and legally), can save the game title from falling into obscurity. In a way, emulation becomes something of a “preservation attempt” of old and outdated games that would otherwise be forgotten by the gaming public.

However, during the course of the article, Kain described how most people had been unable to play the game under normal means unless through the oft-questionable use of emulation programs, going so far as to link one emulation program in it. When former Ars Technica and Penny Arcade Report writer Ben Kuchera caught wind of this, he immediately when on a twitter rant against Kain, accusing him of supporting video game piracy, despite advocating emulation programs himself while still a contributing editor at Ars Technica.Kain eventually updated his article, and apologized (twice) to his readers while reinforcing his stance against video game piracy in any form. Unsatisfied even with this, Kuchera continued to barrage Kain with insults until the twitter conversation devolved into nothing more than name calling from both sides. One of the final insults came from Kuchera, who hoped that the incident in question would “ruin him financially.”

By then, the conversation had been picked up by various gaming site forum members, who criticized Kuchera on his inappropriate and unprofessional behavior in dealing with the incident in question. In particular, forum members at rival gaming site Giant Bomb were highly critical – to put it mildly – of Kuchera’s actions.And this is where the tale takes a rather interesting, and rather dark, turn.Kuchera himself deemed it necessary to jump into the conversation until the commentary conflagrated into nothing more than insults about his credibility as an unbiased journalist. Kuchera then approached the Giant Bomb moderator and had the entire thread locked and eventually removed, going so far as to say afterwards that “It’s nice to know a mod.”

After the incident had eventually died down, Kain was asked if the dispute between them had ended, and if the hatchet had been buried. Kain was said to have replied tersely with “it’d been buried enough.” Kain himself still writes for, and has been writing regularly for nearly four years running now. Kuchera, shortly after the closing of the Penny Arcade Report in 2013, moved on to become Senior Opinion Editor at by January 2014.

Rest assured, dear reader. there are plenty more incidents that frame Mr. Kuchera's personality, and his uncanny methods of "winning friends and influencing people". However, It's best considered to take the information and form your own opinion of him, yourself. Meanwhile, let's get into what was said.

Is that? ... did he just say...  what the hell? Did he just make a sweeping statement about a song that's a large part of gaming culture, and also Russian culture?  He's really wanting us to check our ability toucan..

This would actually be a Lynchpin point in your argument, had the majority of Original copies of Tetris that Pajitnov created on the Electronica 60 had sound at all.


Well, let's suppose beeps count as sound, and can be misconstrued as political propaganda by any red-blooded, tin foil hat wearing "journalist" right, Ben? (I keed I keed) While it can only be guessed that he is referring to the Spectrum Holobyte ports, There are also the Tengen and Atari arcade versions of Tetris that should also be noted, So let's get into that, shall we?

First of all the Spectrum Holobyte version of the Tetris song (which eventually found it's way to the Game Boy version, in 1989) is formally known as the Russian Folk song, "Korobeiniki". Which predates Soviet Russia by  a mere 61 years (The poem and eventual song was published in 1861, the Soviet Union was founded in 1922. I did the math.) On an interesting note, The poem and subsequent song is actually about a peddler and a girl who fancies him, and a sale of a turquoise ring that eventually leads to a marriage proposal. The full story take a turn for the "ohgawds" as a forest ranger they meet in the moors, murders the two peddlers and is caught and arrested for his crime. The Poor Peddler and Katya never marry, and she is left to wonder what happened to him.

Of course, Socialists like Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky, and Alexander Herzen used the song for political means; Chernyschevsky quoted the song in his political campaign to start a revolution amongst the peasant class, while Herzen quoted the poem in the censorship-free newspaper, Kolokov. However, it's safe to say that many non political things can be equally politicized (and weaponized) in order to push an agenda, right Mcintosh?.

It's even more interesting when you look at the composers, who seem to be as Russian as Sonic the Hedgehog is human. Spectrum Holobyte's main composer at the time was Paul Moog, a British Composer from Salisbury Wiltshire, UK and arranged by George Alistar Sanger, a cigar biting Texan from Austin. When the game was ported to The Gameboy, Korobeiniki was remixed by none other than Hirokazu "hip" Tanaka (Metroid, Kid Icarus, Mother ), with additional music taken from Tchaikovsky. Yes the classical composer Tchaikovsky, who's apolitical music has been taught to many a young pianist. I'm sure after this article gets posted, these same politically minded geniuses will go on a rant about how the Nutcracker Suite is also Soviet propaganda, so Be on the lookout for that.

For the glory of Mother Russia, I shall end you!
Tengen and it's parent company, Atari's versions of Tetris were composed by Brad Fuller of Indianapolis Indiana. He arranged the original Russian tracks such as Kalinka (which was composed originally in 1860 by Ivan Larionov as a folk song which eventually gained an accompanying dance) and Katyusha, which was composed by Matvei Blanter with lyrics from Mikhail Isakovsky in 1938. This may be the only song that falls into the "Soviet" timeline, despite the song being about a woman missing her lover (who happens to be a soldier abroad).  Of course the third song on the soundtrack is "Troika" which surprisingly has no noted author. The song appears in Russian folk tales, but current research shows no origin of the actual melody. A Troika is known in Russian as a "threesome" that can be also used as reference to three individuals. That term has been known to be politicized as well, So at least there's that.

Uncovering this information, it comes off as incredibly xenophobic and downright ignorant to just assume that this song was indeed "soviet propaganda", especially considering 1989/90 was the teetering point of the fall of the USSR, as it was known, thanks to Market instability that resulted from a stagnant economy that had been in effect since the late 70's (If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Declaration was established in 1993, which ultimately abolished Soviet rule). 

While this seems to be a rather tiring ordeal of having to play internet detective in order to find out all of this information, It was actually an invigorating endeavor. Many will read this and gain more insight into Video game history and some Russian history as a result, and that's ultimately the goal of these musings. While we could easily chastise Kuchera and to a larger extent, Mcintosh for their pseudo-intelligent gobbledygook (and Twitter E-peen measuring), It would be more entertaining (and beneficial) to uncover the actual truth of the matter, because as we all know; Knowledge is power. I'm sure I could send this link right to Kuchera, as a nicely worded retort, but we would have to be willfully ignorant to believe that he would ever consider any truth other than the one he makes up on the fly.

Game On!

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